When I was little, there was but one thing that occupied the majority of my time, and took up nigh-on every waking moment:
Specifically, the Barbie who did ballet. I was, quite simply, utterly enamored with all of those classic movies. Everything from the sweeping melodies of Swan Lake, to the glittering pink dress from The 12 Dancing Princesses instantly captured my attention and earned my young and adamant admiration.
I mean, there was magic, pink everything, music, magic, pretty chill princes, unicorns, the occasional parrot– everything gads of little girls could have possibly wished for.
I begged my mother to be allowed to take ballet classes so that I, too, could become a magical dancing princess who found the true meaning of friendship before an epic dress change and way cool final musical score.
My mother was absolutely unenthused. She was deaf to my begging, and ignored my litany of reasons for wanting to do ballet (all of which seemed to have something to do with becoming Barbie when I grew up). She had had a friend, you see, who had done ballet and had since thrown out her back, and had an abundance of foot and ankle problems as a result of overworking herself.
My mother told me, in absolutely uncertain terms, that ballet wouldn't be in my future because I'd throw out my back and damage my feet, and that I should try something with less chance of severe podiatric damage. She suggested that I instead try pottery (a dreadful thought, in my young mind, as that option seemed tragically bereft of pink shoes and tutus).
I was utterly devastated. My dreams of becoming a pink, Barbie-endorsed ballerina had evaporated in seconds. Who was I to be, if not a magical fairy princess who sang and danced with woodland creatures? A potter!? Barbie certainly wasn't a potter, so that just wasn't an option!
I guess it turned out to be a good thing, though. Ballet does come with all sorts of trials and travails (although I now know that there are plenty of dancers out there who do their job safely and without concern for damaged feet and backs).
But like, lots of problems still abound-- just think about the shoes! You’re working out in these flimsy little slippers, and-- I mean, after a while they just sort of get rank.
But just like how there are plenty of ways to not mess up your feet and back as a dancer, so too is there a wealth of information on how to keep your ballet slippers clean!
Read on for how to deodorize your ballet shoes with ease and confidence.
1. Air Out Your Shoes
Ok, so I know that the first thing you do after practice (besides obtaining the obvious swig of water, because ballet is freakin’ difficult) is to cram your shoes into your ballet bag.
NO! This is an absolutely dreadful, terrible, awful idea! Who the heck told you to do this!? Do you want your ballet shoes to smell like old cheese?
Cramming moist shoes (yes, I said moist– we all sweat, babe, get over it) right on into a dark environment like your ballet bag will just lead to even more funk, m’kay?
See, (*sighs, and pinches the bridge of my nose) the smell coming from your shoes, you see, actually and in most genuine and bonafide fact comes from bacteria.
Yep, bacteria– little tiny buggers that live in your shoes, on your feet, in your tights– literally, they’re everywhere, which kind of sucks for us and our poor smelly footwear.
Said smelly bacteria tends to enjoy a consistent and readily available diet of sweat and dead skin cells, which my dear prima ballerina, is kind of exactly what your ballet shoes are. Sorry, but thems be the facts.
In order to get rid of the funk, part of our plan of attack can involve the bacteria– well, specifically getting rid of them.
I mean, ok, it’s not like you can straight up chuck your ballet shoes into the washing machine– most of them wouldn’t survive the trip, and seriously ballet shoes are kind of pricy, so we won’t be doing that (your wallets will thank you for your abundance of caution).
BUT if you start storing your ballet shoes out in the open, with raw, moving air, well the bacteria simply won’t stand a chance. A little sunshine, less damp and shadowy spaces, and BOOM! That stank just won't stand a chance, ma’ dear reader.
2. Baking Soda
Sometimes, however, even airing your ballet shoes out won’t get all of that dang moisture out. It kind of sucks, but fresh air can really only do so much, so we’ve got a few other options to help us out, just in case. Nothing too crazy– trust me, your ballet slippers are still in safe hands– like, we won’t be destroying your shoes just to deodorize them.
Baking soda takes the cake (and helps to bake cake, as an aside, because it just has to be that multi-talented) when it comes to being super amazing at swiftly taking moisture, and thus the stank out of our shoes.
The common household item easily absorbs moisture, leaving shoes dry and smelling fabulous, just in time for any rehearsal or performance.
All you have to do to deodorize your ballet shoes with baking soda is either one: get a sock, pour some of the baking soda in, tie it off with a rubber band or something, and then place that sock in the shoe at least overnight– honestly, if you could get the sock in there right after you’re done wearing the shoes, all the better, because we want that sweat (and the stank!) out of there ASAP! We don't want to be leaving any time for the bacteria to get at that sweat, you hear?
On the other hand (or foot, as the case may perhaps be), you could simply pour the baking soda directly into your ballet shoes– I mean, the big thing here is that it’s just a little bit more difficult to clean up, but you could totally just clap the shoes out a few times in order to avoid any kind of dusty footprints.
Salt, like baking soda, is absolutely and most totally amazing at deodorizing your shoes because of how it absorbs all of that dang moisture (say adios and goooooooodbyyyyyye to sweat! And to that crazy bad foot funk!).
Just think back to the last time that you were lucky enough to be at a beach– the wind is blowing, the smell of the sea is everywhere, maybe alongside the scent of some sunscreen (because you’re a total skincare queen, obvs), you have tiny diagonally-cut sandwiches and some positively great snacks tucked into a picnic basket, alongside a great book to read, and then maybe some chapstick, because your lips are totally going to be hot, dry, cracked messes (but still hot because even salty air ain’t enough to dim your glow;) ).
Beaches and places with lots of salt in the surrounding area tend to totally dry out our skin because salt is literally just that great at getting rid of any and all kinds of moisture.
See, okay it’s actually kind of cool– salt, you see, is “hygroscopic,” which just means that it has a net positive charge of its ions, and that means it can attract water, which itself has a net negative charge (it's a whole lot like those magnets you used to play with as a kid– opposites attract, remember?).
Just like the baking soda, either put the salt in a sock and put the sock in the shoe, or just straight up put the salt in the shoe (and give it a good shake while you’re at it, just to get all of the nooks and crannies of your ballet slippers). Leave it to deodorize for as long as you’re good for.
The salt we’ll be using will actually absorb enough water that eventually the salt dissolves just a little bit, resulting in tiny little salt clumps– that’s when you know that the job is done, and you A) Won’t smell like cheese any longer and B) Need to replace the salt ASAP.
4. Soap in the Sole
Another easy-peasy option to deodorize your ballet slippers is literally just soap!
Now, okay, just so that we’re clear– I’m not talking about straight-up washing your shoes, because as we all know, ballet shoes are kind of delicate, and we don’t want to subject them to anything too harsh when it comes to getting rid of that funky shoe smell for good.
But literally just putting a dry bar of soap in your shoes isn’t going to hurt anything, like I literally pinkie-promise you, ma’ dear (yet smelly) reader.
So like, okay when we normally wash our own two hands, we use soap and water in part because A) the water helps to spread the soapy clean love and B) It's literally just such a great mechanical force (like physical) to push the bacteria and grime away from your skin.
But soap by itself is good for at least deodorizing our smelly shoes! Soap is supes amazing because it helps to burst the waxy membrane surrounding our wee little bacteria (not precisely) friends.
Said smelly bacteria absolutely needs their little fatty membrane in order to survive, so they don’t do too well with soap, basically.
For real, all you have to do in order for this to work (and for you to get back to smelling fabulous again!) is stick a bar of soap in each of your stinky ballet shoes. The soap will show the bacteria inside whose boss, and then you won’t have to worry about your sweat transforming into the dreaded stank!
Leave the soap in your ballet shoes whenever you’re not practicing or dancing, but overnight will certainly do in a pinch.
5. Steam Clean
If you want to really show those bacteria who’s boss (it’s you btw), you can easily do so with a steam cleaner.
You know, those apparently magical wands that you normally would just use to wave over wrinkly clothes in order to get rid of any unseemly wrinkles? Yeah, you can also totally use steam cleaners for a gazillion million other things, and one of them is zapping all of those smelly bacteria so that you can go ahead and dance away without having to worry about smelling like microwaved tuna fish.
The high temperature of steam cleaning takes care of the bacteria– just like you can’t really stand certain high temps, bacteria just don’t do so *hot* (sorry not sorry for these puns;) ) when the steam cleaner increases the shoes’ temperature from toasty to that “unearthly, limboing in heck” kind of hot.
All you have to do is grab your steam cleaner, and stick it into ballet slippers, wait for just about 20 seconds per smelly shoe (any longer might melt the delicate fabric of the shoes), and then you can give yourself a pat on the back, self-high-five, shout hallelujah or whatever it is you usually do to celebrate, because congrats, you’ve done it! That’s it! You’ve successfully used the steam cleaner to get rid of the bad smells in your ballet shoes for good.
A little note, just so that you’re aware, though. It’s like super super important to make sure that you let the shoes dry out after using the steam cleaner to zap the bacteria. If you’ll care to recall, moisture helps bacteria to make our shoes rank, and if there are any survivors who managed to weather the steam cleaner, they’ll be using the now-moist fabric of your shoes to get them smelly all over again.
Simply let the ballet slippers air-dry after you've used the steam cleaner to deodorize your ballet shoes, however, and you should totally be fine. Your slippers will be dry AND smell awesome after they’ve completely aired out.
6. Coffee Foot Soak
Ok, I know that you read the title of this option, and thought to yourself, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FREAKIN’ HECK!? Ain’t NO WAY any ballet slippers are taking a dip into literal coffee!? What are you insane!?” Don’t you worry, because here we’re only insanely well-versed in keeping shoes from smelling bad, ma’ dear reader!
Ok, so you see, it’s not your ballet slippers that will be taking a dip in your morning cup of joe, but your own two feet themselves.
Now, I know I promised all y’all earlier that it wasn’t your poor feet that stank, but in fact, the bacteria, yet it’s important to remember that said smelly bacteria kind of live not just in your shoes, but also on your feet. Yeah, I know it’s kind of weird to think about bacteria just chilling on your skin and making you smell like old stinky cheese, but hey, it’s a problem that literally every human being experiences, so there’s that.
We can make sure that bacteria won’t live to smell up another dance performance! Coffee, you see, contains caffeine, which itself is actually just like a natural pesticide for the coffee bean plant. See, a gazillion million years ago, coffee beans evolved to include caffeine in the genetic makeup as a sort of natural deterrent for hungry animals. Humans are sort of weird, however, and we don’t tend to let a little thing like caffeine being a natural pesticide deter us from getting our early morning jitters. Heck, spicy food with capsaicin (basically the chemical in spicy pepper plants that makes hot food taste… well, hot) isn’t enough to stop us either! Seriously, if it's even remotely edible human beings don't seem to care.
But caffeine is certainly enough to stop the stinky bacteria! Pour about two cups of coffee into a little foot bath (one that you don’t mind getting stained if it comes down to it), and then dilute with water. Don’t go above a gallon, but less is fine– you can always add more water if you feel like it, but you can’t take it out, m’kay? Soak your feet for just around 10-20 minutes, and then just rinse everything (the bath and your feet) clean, and pat dry.
But even if I may not be a tried and true ballerina, I do recognize that your lives must be incredibly busy, and that sometimes there’s simply not enough spare sanity to dedicate to deodorizing your shoes. I mean, between rehearsals, actual performances, and not to mention practice on your own, there are probably like 3.4 seconds to dedicate to other things like eating, sleep, or maybe some downtime. Does that sound about right? Like, if you’re lucky?
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LUMI’S Extra Strength Lemon Eucalyptus Spray works for smelly shoes, smelly rooms (where you normally work out? IDK, just a thought), literally anywhere that’s rank– you name it (and smell it;) ) and LUMI has got you.
Simply spray LUMI’s Extra Strength Lemon Eucalyptus Spray directly into your shoes! Deodorize your ballet slippers in seconds flat, so that you can get back to doing what you love without the foot funk!
Okay, let’s run through all of these one more time, from the top, because as all dancers definitely know, practice and rehearsal is what makes everything work.
So first up, we have the option of literally just making sure to air out your smelly ballet slippers. Your shoes need to dry out– like, we’re trying to get rid of the moisture from the sweat, which is what the bacteria absolutely love to chow down on before stinking up your shoes. Simply air out your shoes, and don’t keep them tucked into any kind of gym tags (you all know who you are)!
Baking soda will actually help to absorb the moisture, so get some into your shoes, or put it into a sock and put the sock into your smelly shoes at least overnight, but go for even longer if at all possible.
Salt makes your shoes inhospitable to the smelly bacteria (meaning your shoes and your feet basically are going to be getting to a get-out-of-jail-free card!). Just like the baking soda, dash it into your shoes and leave it in for as long as possible, or do the same thing using a sock to make it just a bit easier to clean up.
Putting a dry bar of soap in the soles of your ballet shoes will also stick a whammy to the bacteria, so get it in there right after you’re done dancing, and then just remove the bars when you want to use your shoes (which now smell fabulous!) once again.
Steam cleaning will zap the stinky bacteria thanks to high temperatures– just make sure to leave it to COMPLETELY dry out afterward, because dancing in even slightly damp shoes can make the shoe stink like a gazillion times worse!
Treat yourself to a spa day with the added bonus of great-smelling feet and ballet slippers with a 20-minute coffee foot soak– just about two cups of coffee and a gallon of water will quickly and efficiently deodorize your feet and save your shoes!
And finally, we can try out LUMI’s Extra Strength Lemon Eucalyptus Spray Natural Shoe Deodorizer for a spin. I pinkie-promise, this stuff will literally be one of the most simple and effective methods of deodorizing ballet slippers out there. Simply spray LUMI’s Extra Strength Lemon Eucalyptus Spray directly into each of your ballet slippers, and fix your smelly shoe odor problem for good!